|Simon Lehna Singh|
Singh speaking at TAM London in October 2009
19 September 1964 |
|Institutions||Imperial College London
University of Cambridge
|Alma mater||Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Imperial College London
|Thesis||Heavy flavour physics at the CERN PP̄ collider (1991)|
|Known for||Journalism, Libel campaign BCA v. Singh, Books and Broadcasting|
|Notable awards||Order of the British Empire|
Tom Singh (brother), Hari Singh (child)
Simon Lehna Singh, MBE (born 19 September 1964) is a British author who has specialised in writing about mathematical and scientific topics in an accessible manner. His written works include Fermat's Last Theorem (in the United States titled Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem), The Code Book (about cryptography and its history), Big Bang (about the Big Bang theory and the origins of the universe) and Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial (about complementary and alternative medicine).
Singh has also produced documentaries and works for television to accompany his books, is a trustee of NESTA, the National Museum of Science and Industry and co-founded the Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme.
Singh's parents emigrated from Punjab in India to Britain in 1950. He is the youngest of three brothers, his eldest brother being Tom Singh, the founder of the UK New Look chain of stores. Singh grew up in Wellington, Somerset, attending Wellington School, and went on to Imperial College London, where he studied Physics. He was active in the student union, becoming President of the Royal College of Science Union. Later he completed a PhD degree in particle physics at Emmanuel College, Cambridge and at CERN, Geneva.
Singh directed his BAFTA award-winning documentary about the world's most notorious mathematical problem entitled "Fermat's Last Theorem" in 1996. The film was memorable for its opening shot of a middle-aged mathematician, Andrew Wiles holding back tears as he recalled the moment when he finally realised how to resolve the fundamental error in his proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. The documentary was originally transmitted in October 1997 as an edition of the BBC Horizon series. It was also aired in America as part of the NOVA series. The Proof, as it was re-titled, was nominated for an Emmy Award.
The story of this celebrated mathematical problem was also the subject of Singh's first book, Fermat's last theorem. In 1997, he began working on his second book, The Code Book, a history of codes and codebreaking. As well as explaining the science of codes and describing the impact of cryptography on history, the book also contends that cryptography is more important today than ever before. The Code Book has resulted in a return to television for him. He presented The Science of Secrecy, a five-part series for Channel 4. The stories in the series range from the cipher that sealed the fate of Mary, Queen of Scots, to the coded Zimmermann Telegram that changed the course of the First World War. Other programmes discuss how two great 19th century geniuses raced to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs and how modern encryption can guarantee privacy on the Internet. In October 2004, Singh published a book entitled Big Bang, which tells the history of the universe. It is told in his trademark style, by following the remarkable stories of the people who put the pieces together.
In 2003, Singh was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to Science, Technology and Engineering in Education and Science Communication. In the same year he was made Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) by Loughborough University, and in 2005 was given an honorary degree in Mathematics by the University of Southampton.
He made headlines in 2005 when he criticised the Katie Melua song "Nine Million Bicycles" for inaccurate lyrics referring to the size of the observable universe. Singh proposed corrected lyrics, though he used the value of 13.7 billion light years; accounting for expansion of the universe, the comoving distance to the edge of the observable universe is 46.5 billion light years. BBC Radio 4's Today programme brought Melua and Singh together in a radio studio where Melua recorded a tongue-in-cheek version of the song that had been written by Singh.
In 2006, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Design degree by the University of the West of England "in recognition of Simon Singh’s outstanding contribution to the public understanding of science, in particular in the promotion of science, engineering and mathematics in schools and in the building of links between universities and schools". This was followed up by his receipt of the Kelvin Medal from the Institute of Physics in 2008, for his achievements in promoting Physics to the general public. In July 2008, he was also awarded a degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) by Royal Holloway, University of London. In July 2011, he was awarded another degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) by the University of Kent for services to Science.
Simon is a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering. He is the maiden winner of the Lilavati Award. In February 2011 he was elected as a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
Chiropractic lawsuit 
In 2008, Singh was unsuccessfully sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association for criticising their activities in a column in The Guardian. A "furious backlash" to the lawsuit resulted in the filing of formal complaints of false advertising against more than 500 individual chiropractors within one 24 hour period, with one national chiropractic organisation ordering its members to take down their websites, and Nature Medicine noting that the case had gathered wide support for Singh, as well as prompting calls for the reform of English libel laws. On 1 April 2010, Simon Singh won his court appeal for the right to rely on the defence of fair comment. On 15 April 2010, the BCA officially withdrew its lawsuit, ending the case.
In 19 April 2008, The Guardian published Singh's column "Beware the Spinal Trap", an article that was critical of the practice of chiropractic and which resulted in Singh being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA). When the case was first brought against him, The Guardian supported him and funded his legal advice, as well as offering to pay the BCA's legal costs in an out-of-court settlement if Singh chose to settle.
The article developed the theme of the book that Singh and Edzard Ernst had just published, Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial, and made various statements about the lack of usefulness of chiropractic "for such problems as ear infections and infant colic":
You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.
The case was eventually abandoned by BCA. Singh's out-of-pocket legal costs were tens of thousands of pounds, but while it lasted it acted as a catalyst and focus for libel reform campaigners resulting in all major parties in the 2010 UK general election making manifesto commitments to libel reform.
- Singh, S. (2011). "How English libel law has a global chill on free speech". Cortex 47 (6): 643–644. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2011.03.007. PMID 21458790.
- Singh, Simon (1997). Fermat's Last Theorem. Fourth Estate. ISBN 1-85702-669-1.
- Singh, Simon (1998). Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem. Anchor. ISBN 0-385-49362-2.
- Singh, Simon (2000). The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography. Anchor. ISBN 0-385-49532-3.
- Singh, Simon (2005). Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe. Fourth Estate. ISBN 0-00-716220-0.
- Singh, Simon; Ernst, Edzard (2008). Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. Transworld. ISBN 978-0-593-06129-9.
- "The Simon Singh Interview". Imperial College London. October 1999. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- Singh, Simon (1991). Heavy flavour physics at the CERN PP̄ collider (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. http://ulmss-newton.lib.cam.ac.uk/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=13830.
- The London Gazette: . 14 June 2003.
- Singh, Simon (30 September 2005). "Katie Melua's bad science". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
- Lineweaver, Charles; Tamara M. Davis (2005). "Misconceptions about the Big Bang". Scientific American. Retrieved 6 November 2008.
- "Listen Again". Today Programme. BBC Radio 4. 15 October 2005. Retrieved 18 May 2008.
- "UWE awards honorary degree to Dr Simon Singh MBE". News 2006. University of the West of England. 28 November 2006. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
- "The Kelvin Medal and Prize: 2008 Medallist". Subject Awards. Institute of Physics. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
- "2008 Honorary Graduates and Fellows become part of a prestigious network". Media & Events. Royal Holloway, University of London. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
- "Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering". Retrieved 2011-02-11.
- "Simon Singh wins maiden Leelavati Award". 27 September 2010.
- "CSI announces new Fellows". Retrieved 2011-08-07.
- Eden, R (16 August 2008). "Doctors take Simon Singh to court". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
- Martin Robbins. Furious backlash from Simon Singh libel case puts chiropractors on ropes. "One in four chiropractors in Britain are under investigation as a result of campaign by Singh supporters." The Guardian, 1 March 2010
- Lucas Laursen. "The Great Beyond: Chiropractic group advises members to 'withdraw from the battleground'". Nature.com. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
- Willyard, C. (2009). "Lawsuit sparks calls for libel law reform". Nature Medicine 15 (723): 723. doi:10.1038/nm0709-723b. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
- "Simon Singh wins libel court battle". London: Guardian. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
- "British Chiropractic Association v Singh — BCA admits defeat". Ely Place. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
- Singh, Simon (19 April 2008). "Beware the spinal trap". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 13 November 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2009. reinstated on 15 April 2010
- Comment is Free, The Guardian
- Boseley, Sarah (Thursday 14 May 2009). "Science writer accused of libel may take fight to European court". London: The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 19 May 2009.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Simon Singh|
- Radio shows
- Simon Singh: The five most important numbers in mathematics
- Simon Singh: Another five numbers
- Simon Singh: A further five numbers
- Undergraduate Ambassadors' Scheme, co-founded by Simon Singh
- Simon Singh: No miracle cure for junk science
- Archive of Happy Families, a British Chiropractic Association brochure that claimed “chiropractic care ... helped children” with asthma, bedwetting and baby colic, claims Dr. Singh took issue with, all ending in a lawsuit.
- Transcript of Court of Appeal judgment on leave to appeal, 14 October 2009.
- Ten Questions that BCA Members Should Now Be Asking, an analysis of the legal and practical position that BCA members are in as a result of the lawsuit, by Jack of Kent.
- Chiropractors Try to Silence Simon Singh